You are not alone – Dementia Awareness Month 2017

A leader in aged care and seniors living is marking Dementia Awareness Month in September, and promoting the launch of an innovative, Australia-first product that helps carers and families understand what it really is like to live with dementia.

According to Alzheimer’s Australia, Dementia is not one disease, but a descriptor for various disorders affecting the brain, thinking, behaviour and fine motor skills. While it is most commonly seen in the elderly, it is also present amongst younger people. There is no known cure, with Dementia the second leading cause of death in people aged 84-95.

Churches in Christ Care is leading the way in understanding and caring for people living with dementia by securing the first Australian mainland licence to bring the Virtual Dementia Tour to our shores. The tour was created by geriatric specialist P.K Beville, who travelled to Australia in June to launch the product and train Churches of Christ in Queensland staff to become certified facilitators.

Director of Seniors and Supported Living Bryan Mason said the experience of the Virtual Dementia Tour will change the way carers view people living with dementia.

“Being able to have carers and health professionals interact with their environment with a short-term dementia filter will go a long way to them better understanding what it is like to experience dementia,” Mr Mason said.

“Without actually having dementia there isn’t really any other way besides the Virtual Dementia Tour to feel what a loved one or client experiences.”

Participants in the Virtual Dementia Tour are guided by the certified facilitators as they are fully kitted-out with specially-designed accessories that simulate what it is like for people living with dementia. The tour is medically and scientifically proven to be as close to dementia a healthy brain can experience.

The patented equipment includes gloves to simulate loss of fine motor skills, goggles to mimic macular degeneration and loss of peripheral vision, and headphones to restrict and distort hearing and comprehension.

“Through the tour we hope to change common practices and sensitivity towards our elders and people living with dementia,” he said.

Mr Mason said the experience changed his beliefs of what he thought living with dementia would be like, and he believes the Virtual Dementia Tour will positively assist staff and carers to connect and have empathy for clients.

“Having worked with clients with dementia and being in the aged care sector for many years now, I thought I knew how those living with dementia felt, but I was shocked and amazed by the experience.”

“It puts you in a place where you don’t know what is up, what that strange noise was, or even who that person is in front of you. Sadly that is how those living with dementia travel through life.  

“The Tour allows us to deliver on our Positive Wellbeing Model of Care by placing ourselves in the shoes of another, so we can meaningfully connect with those who experience dementia in order to make a positive difference in their lives.”

One in three people over 85 and one in ten people over 65 are living with dementia, and with our aging population, these numbers are believed to continue to drastically increase. With 14.7 per cent of Queensland’s population aged over 65 and over 240 new cases of dementia each day, it is vital that we understand more about what it is like for people living with dementia.

Churches of Christ Care endeavours to bring year-round awareness and support, with various programs geared toward training staff and supporting people living with dementia. These programs include specialised church services, focused volunteer involvement and dementia-friendly spaces within aged care services.

The Active Volunteers in Dementia pilot research program is examining the effectiveness of a deliberately developed program to better prepare volunteers to interact with and support people living with dementia.

The pilot dementia church service initiative won the 2015 PASCOP Annual Quality in Pastoral and Spiritual Practice Award. Through the use of music, singing, scripture and prayers delivered within this service, residents living in aged care are able to reignite their connection to God.

Information on the Virtual Dementia Tour provided by Churches of Christ Care can be found at cofc.com.au/vdt. Carers and providers can also register their interest in participating in a Virtual Dementia Tour on the website or alternatively email vdt@cofcqld.com.au.

Churches of Christ Care is one of the leading not-for-profit providers of services for seniors including, with retirement living, home and community care, home maintenance and modifications programs, and residential aged care delivered at various locations across Queensland and Victoria.           

Posted September 12, 2017 in Media releases